Dorie Clark’s ebook “Stand Out Networking: A Simple and Authentic Way to Meet People on Your Own Terms” has to be the first book on networking that really speaks to me as an introvert.
For me there are several new ideas and tactics that I can take from the book and put into practice. I now realise that “networking” doesn’t have to be the dirty word that I have often thought it to be. But more than this and reassuringly, I realise that I’m already doing some of items that Dorie recommends, independently of reading her book.
Network on our own terms
Dorie, an introvert herself, explains that networking doesn’t have to be about going to a pre-organised business card exchange event in a busy bar but can be a quieter affair of a small dinner party or just two people having a coffee.
Us networkers should trust our gut and if a situation makes us feel uncomfortable, it probably isn’t right for us and that is ok. If we approach networking as a mandatory obligation, we’ll sabotage our efforts — people may sense our negativity and will probably be less likely to help.
Instead, we should look for other opportunities that resonate. We should create spaces when we’re out and about, be open to meeting people and experiencing new things.
Recently, while I was en route to a gallery, I spotted a new gallery that I hadn’t seen before so I thought I’d pop in there too. On walking through the door, I was hit by a floral aromatherapy scent — which turned into an instant and accidental conversation opener with the gallery owner. From there on in, we had an interesting chat and I learned when she’d opened the gallery, her website issues, about the artists she was showcasing and the pebbles that she displayed her handmade jewellery on (people kept enquiring about buying the pebbles rather than her gorgeous jewellery!). As well as feeling a genuine human connection, this conversation was invaluable insight for my own virtual administration and design businesses.
Expand our network, think tactics and dig-deep
For every two people that we connect with in our industry, we should also connect with someone who is working in a different area but who interests us. You never know when a fresh perspective may come in useful.
We’re all very busy and so we have to be more selective about who we reach out to. In the book, Keith Ferrazzi, author of bestsellers ‘Who’s Got Your Back’ and ‘Never Eat Alone’, advises on developing a Relationship Action Plan. Once we’ve prioritised our contacts based on how well we know them (3 is a trusted contact, 2 is an acquaintance, 1 is someone you’ve met, 0 is for people you don’t know, and -1 is for people with whom we have a strained relationship), we should set a schedule to regularly check in with them.
With these contacts, be generous. Offer value first and defer personal-gain. Think about the bigger picture. If you have mutual colleagues or friends that could help each other out, introduce them. A LinkedIn contact who I met at a Toastmasters event a while back recently introduced me to a contact of his and a potential future client which was really kind of him.
To help streamline this activity to connect with our network, Dorie recommends, Contactually, an app that cross-references with Gmail, your calendar and social networks to see when you last spoke to a contact. If you go beyond the specified time period without speaking to this contact, Contactually will remind you to do so.
Organise a networking event
Following the first point, networking on our own terms, why not organise your own networking event? Whether introvert or extrovert, this enables a certain control over the setting and guest list. It can be in line with our personal preferences and career aspirations.
In some way, I realise that I am already on track here but I certainly feel inspired to consider new opportunities. A few years back, I took part in the “30 day challenge”, which involved doing a money-making project that you love in just 30 days. Hosted by career-change book author John Williams, the project enabled members to connect with like-minded individuals online, while learning together.
At the end of the project, there was a meet-up event in London for those who could make it. However, from the international 200+ members, I could see that a large proportion of these were living in the South West of England. I arranged our own meet-up event in Bristol and today, 4 years on, a small group of us are still meeting monthly.
This humble network has evolved to a close group of peers and friends who I can trust to explore and discuss both new ideas with and professional challenges. They are a brilliant bunch who provide unfaltering support and who continue to inspire me.
I could have never imagined that taking the step to organise this meet-up (and boy, was I scared at the time), could lead to something so fruitful.
All in all and thanks in part to Dorie, networking is no longer the unmentionable word I once considered it to be. As an introvert, I am now excited to explore new opportunities with others to achieve business goals while at the same time having fun. Here’s to networking and building fabulous relationships